The Who gave an energetic, acoustic preview of Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show Thursday— but things turned serious when Pete Townshend defended himself against some children’s advocates who say he should not be performing.
“I’ve been really saddened by it, and concerned about it. It’s an issue that’s very difficult to deal with in sound bites,” the legendary guitarist said at an NFL news conference dedicated to the Super Bowl’s entertainers, including Carrie Underwood and Queen Latifah.
“I kind of feel like we’re all on the same side, I guess that’s all I can really say,” he said.
Townshend was arrested in 2003 in Britain as part of a child pornography sting but later cleared. He accessed a Web site containing child pornography but said it was for research for his own campaign against child porn. He was required to register as a sex offender, despite being cleared.
Because of that, groups like Protect Our Children have protested the choice of The Who, the legendary group featuring Townshend and Roger Daltrey.
But Townshend said he has been a children’s advocate for decades and alluded to his own confession of being abused as a child.
“For a family that has suffered the issue of childhood abuse or anything of that sort, vigilance, common sense vigilance is the most important thing, not vigilantism,” he said. “Anybody that has any doubts about whether I should be here or not should investigate a little bit further.”
The issue took away from the celebratory tone of the event, during which Underwood, Latifah and the Who talked football, nerves and more ahead of their performances on Super Bowl Sunday. Latifah is to sing “America the Beautiful,” while Carrie Underwood is singing the national anthem.
Both acknowledged the pressure in performing at the world’s biggest show, but for different reasons.
“I think there’s just a responsibility. You’re singing ‘America the Beautiful’ or the national anthem, you feel like you’re representing America,” said Latifah. “Especially (since) we are at wartime right now.
Underwood said she was worried about flubbing the anthem’s lyrics.
“For me, my biggest fear is words. Of course you sing these songs a million times, and everybody knows the words,” she said. “But if you’re gonna mess up, that would be the one time to do it.”
The Who showed no performance anxiety as they performed three of their classic hits: “Behind Blue Eyes,” '‘Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Both Daltry and Townshend admitted to knowing little about American football and Daltrey said he’d never been to an NFL game before.
But his lack of knowledge didn’t prevent him from picking sides. He said he was partial to the New Orleans Saints because “New Orleans could use a little bit of luck.”
Latifah also favored the Saints, calling them a “Cinderella team.” Underwood said she hated picking sides but pledged “51 percent” of her allegiance to the Saints.
“I love (Saints Coach) Sean Payton. He came to a concert, so that’s where that extra one percent (comes from),” she said.
But the Saints didn’t win over the entire entertainment field. After hearing Daltrey’s bid for New Orleans, Townshend said: “Then I guess I’ll go for the Colts.”